The room is half-lit from the sunset. Crowding around the bed, in almost saint-like postures, is the family of our patient who is in her last moments of life.
I do my best to console the family, a light touch on the shoulder, and honest stare. Then, there’s the inevitable moment, the palliative extubation. Our patient, gasping for air, head turned to her side, the room in a quiet somber.
The moment arrives. In a moment of near ethereal transcendence, a slight tinge of grayish tone to her body, she passes on.
I feel the pain, the sadness, grief. But also the energy of life, the spiritual connection with families; the sanctity of the moment we are privileged to be a part of.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of death, of end of life care, is the resemblance to the moment of birth. Both of the moments passages, family waiting in angst, hands gripped, waiting for an arrival.
Never have I felt so mortal, yet so alive. So carnal, yet so spiritual. Often times the feeling indistinguishable, from the intensive care unit to the labor ward. The hue of human radiance is palpable in both places.
These moments are some of the most special, intense, and revealing experiences we are invited to be a part of; a privilege. Our attention, empathy, and love for patients make these moments memorable for families in both settings, waiting in angst.
I walk away from these moments feeling an energy; feeling closer to life, more alive than the day before. Closer to death yet closer to life.
Life after death, the beginning of an end.
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